Quoted: Bill Gates and education, or Bill Gates vs. education

“Beforehand, the philanthropies were viewed as one of many voices in education. Now they are viewed — and the market reformers and the tech folks — as the dominant forces, and as dissonant to those who work in schools every day.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which announced earlier this year that it would no longer take grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the group’s innovation initiatives. Among other things, she said the foundation works around teachers, not with them. A New York Times Magazine article looks at Bill Gates’ efforts and influence in education, and finds “he has become a remarkably polarizing figure in the education world.”

One of the Microsoft co-founder’s latest efforts is the Big History Project, a comprehensive look at world history that weaves in science, philosophy and more. The project is making its way into more than a thousand high schools in the nation, but it has critics: “When I think about history, I think about different perspectives, clashing points of view. I wonder how Bill Gates would treat the robber barons. I wonder how Bill Gates would deal with issues of extremes of wealth and poverty,” Diane Ravitch, an education historian at New York University, told the magazine.

For his part, Gates strikes a positive note, according to the magazine: “When Melinda and I go on the road and talk to teachers, it’s just so clear there is a real hunger for this. If you can take a teacher and give him or her the help to become a great teacher, everyone benefits: the kids, the teacher, the community, the unions. Everyone.”

 

Photo of Bill Gates from Associated Press archives

 

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